hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
Washing the dishes after a holiday meal made me miss my mom.

The details were all different for me today at work when I was cleaning up a Pesach seder, but my mom spends much of every family gathering in the kitchen and from the time I was old enough to be trusted drying the good dishes, I've helped out. So there was something very familiar about it even in its novelty (I know shamefully little about Judaism; I'm grateful to the increased time I've spent with these Jewish friends now that I'm employed by one of them having exposed me to a lot more conversations and information about it, but still everything is new to me).

Washing and drying and stacking and storing made me miss my mom, but also sheesh now I appreciate how much project managing she does in dealing with the aftermath of a big meal for a bunch of people. What gets washed in what order, where clean things can be put, she's better at all of that than me. This is the kind of skill that gets so associated with women it is not even recognized as existing; soddevalued that even I who'd witnessed it for a couple decades didn't consciously think about it until now.

Maybe I shouldn't be too hard on myself for not being as good at this as my mom. She has a thirty-year head start on me, but she also had no doubt done this more before she was my age than I have. My life looks very different from hers, but still there are these echoes.
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
My thoughts on seeing Stuart say on Facebook "Googling Polyamorous Valentines Cards results in valentines cards for dogs."

1: valentines cards for dogs! <3 It's no surprise they're associated with polyamory: ever since I heard [personal profile] miss_s_b's theory about dogs all being naturally polyamorous, I keep finding more evidence that this appears to be true...

distant second: shit, if he's looking at polyamorous valentine cards, I should buy him a card!

I think this adequately illustrates both how much I love dogs and how unused I am to partners who do valentines day. I do love that he loves it, though.
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)


I saw Em J for the first time in weeks, which is always so nice. But it was extra nice because she had such lovely birthday and Christmas presents for me!

I got a Moon nightlight, swirly space colored pencils, a planner with shiny constellations on it, and two other notebooks with constellation covers, one that's got a planisphere, a rotating paper disc so you can move it around to see what constellations are visible at different points if the year.

"I thought it might be a good thing to mess with in lectures when you're bored," she said about that, which made me giggle.

The planisphere notebook also has all different kinds of pages: ruled (nice and thin! I never see it thin enough for me), dotted, graph, even some with tessellating triangles.

The space pencils I remember seeing in Fred Aldous and being so excited about them I wondered if Em J had been the friend I was with. But then I remembered that'd been a different friend, Em J just knows me so well.

The other constellation notebook she said she was thinking might be nice if I want to do some poetry like Stuart. She got him a nice leather-covered notebook that he says he's going to read out of next time we go to Spoken Weird.
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
Best moment of the month, suggested by [profile] zhelena

Yep I was right. I've written an essay, I'm done with lectures, I survived the festivities (as they apparently ask in German), I'm done feeling lonely because I'm around some of the best people, and this is the first time all month I've been able to say that.

And [personal profile] miss_s_b has just handed me a basil smash. My favorite drink discovery this year. Life is good.
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
My family spent every Christmas Eve at my grandparents' house until it became just my grandma's house. This is the seventh one without my grandpa but it still feels like there's a big empty hollow at the center of the festivities without him, because he loved Christmas so much. He loved having all of us there. I can still see him handing out the presents from under the tree, feigning surprise that we were good enough to get any presents. I can hear his voice, feel his hugs. He was such a big presence.

He had a long full life and died an old man's death: stubborn and resenting hospitals to the last (he was definitely a handful for the staff!) in his 80s. But I miss him a lot and Christmas still doesn't seem right without him -- to almost the same extent that it'll always feel wrong without my brother, who I had much more reason to expect to be spending more Christmases with.

The two losses feel very close together somehow, even though Grandpa's is as far away now as Chris's was when Grandpa died.

Today again my grandma mentioned the Vikings sweatsuit of Grandpa's that Chris always slept in when he and I stayed over (something we loved to do and which I still get homesick for). She gave it to me after Grandpa died, and I think of both of them when I see it.

I told Andrew just now of the year Grandpa and I looked at photo albums of bis childhood and mine. I remember him saying "I really miss Chris," something no one else in my family has ever said in my company -- I can read it all over my parents' faces of course, but only Grandpa said it out loud. Turns out I wrote about it at the time, and I'm glad I did. It turned out to have been my grandpa's last Christmas.

Grandma was on nostalgic form too today: talking about lefse and lutefisk, gatherings with her siblings for oyster stew at New Year's, actually going places in a sleigh pulled by a team of horses as a kid because she lived in the country and the roads would never be plowed, she talked to Andrew about how she doesn't like going on my family's traditional vacation because it -- the only thing my grandpa got as excited about as he did about Christmas Eve -- doesn't feel the same without him. And I agree with her there: it too still feels like he's just stepped out of the room, or he's down by the lake messing with his boat motor, and to not have him there with us stings.
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
1 - Thing I am most looking forward to this month (suggested by [profile] zhelena)

New Year's Eve in Brighouse. It's been a tradition for Andrew and me, even before James and I started dating so we must've been doing this at least since 2012.

After the effort and stress of Christmas with my family, I think we both appreciate even more the time with some of our favorite people, food we actually like, and most importantly just being able to be ourselves again.

This year I'll even be able to watch Doctor Who live with everyone else instead of having to catch up on it a week later, and I'm really happy about that.

([profile] zhelena also asked, for the 31st, what my favorite moment of this month was so we'll find out then if I'm right, I guess!)

Please suggest a topic for me to write about if you like! Still plenty of days left.
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
Andrew says he's aging in dog years so he's nearly six. Sounds about right.

But to his fellow humans, he's forty today! Happy birthday, love.
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
Somehow, my dad ended up paying for dinner and buying me a drill today, which is surely the wrong way around!
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
It may still be chilly and gray, but yesterday I got purple sprouting broccoli in my veg box, and last night I watched Opening Day baseball (the Twins' relief pitching sucked so they lost). So it was officially the first day of spring.

Christmas

Dec. 26th, 2017 04:00 pm
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
We'll leave in an hour to fly back so I might be jinxing it, but I've had a really successful trip here so far.

I got my requisite airport panic attack out of the way right away -- they couldn't find Andrew's ESTA (visa waiver for the U.S.) on the computer system and he can't fly without one. So I was in shuddering sobs before it was four o'clock in the damn morning. But after that we had a smooth trip through security, on to Amsterdam and then Minneapolis.

A few weeks earlier I'd been in almost as bad a state when I read about Amal El-Mohtar's horrible time trying to enter the U.S. a month or so before we were flying here. I tweeted that ever since they started taking his fingerprints I felt awful for taking Andrew to a country where he is treated like a criminal, but it's been getting worse every year. And hugely so this year: other tweets responding to Ms. El-Mohtar's horrible treatment were giving people advice about taking burner phones and generally treating it as an unsafe police state. So I just felt awful because nothing would compel me to drag Andrew any place that people talk about like this...except that he'd promised my mom, who was in tears that I was living so far away so soon after my brother died, that we'd both be back every Christmas. And we have, ever since.

He takes all promises incredibly seriously) sometimes to a fault!) and I certainly take this one seriously because it was made to my grief-stricken mother at one of the worst points in her life. The loss of my brother is irrevocably tangled up with the trauma of immigration. So I cried a lot and had a bad afternoon and Andrew wrote this blog post, showing how seriously he was taking it.

And then we got through customs the easiest we have done for years.

I had my requisite crying jag the first night, and didn't even have to wake Andrew up for it. I managed to eat okay if not well so while I was still hungry a lot of the time, the lack of protein wasn't driving me crazy like it did in previous years.

Chrisrmas itself went okay: I got weirdly good presents despite giving my worst gift idea suggestions ever.

Christmas Eve my mom and her sisters drank a lot of wine and one of her sisters cried but also said it was the best Christmas she'd had for years; maybe partly because last Thanksgiving she was told she had breast cancer and now she's apparently cancer-free.

Christmas Day my aunt seemed to make a point of asking people what kind of Christmas memories they had, what it was like when they were growing up. She's my dad's sister, and both her brothers' wives had really different upbringings: my mom's family was really pretty poor and my other aunt is one of ten kids. She asked Andrew about his family's Christmas in Britain.

I've been on a big meta-Christmas kick this year for some reason, I was telling Andrew how much I like the songs about doing what we've always done at Christmas and why we do it. And I don't think my family talk nearly enough about who we are and how we got here, so I really loved that my aunt was asking and people were answering.

And now I'm ensconced in the airport, with someplace to charge my phone and I finally figured out the WiFi so I can tell you this.
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
I'm weirdly delighted at this card my grandma got Andrew for his birthday.

He didn't bother punching out and assembling the paper airplane, but I did!

"Maybe it's because she thinks of us as going to visit on a plane?" Andrew said when he'd opened the card and was telling me about the paper airplane in it.

It certainly makes me think of that, now.

I miss my grandma. It was nice to see her handwriting again. She doesn't do e-mail or cell phones or anything, but she used to write occasionally -- it's harder now, because of her eyesight -- and I wrote back, never often enough.

This time of year is often the worst for me missing people. One of the unexpected upsides of university is how much better I've handled the changing of the seasons because of it: I've been too busy to be wistful. But there are moments.

I'll write her a nice letter, thanking her for such a great card.

Solstice

Jun. 21st, 2017 10:37 pm
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
It's been so hot and my hair's so thick that I shaved most of it off this evening.
A selfie where I try to show off that the sides of my head are shaved. My dark hair is longer on the top and combed off to one side.
Feels much better now. But no doubt this means the heatwave is over. You're welcome.

It's the longest day of the year in this hemisphere, a bittersweet occasion for me because I'm sad to think the days are getting shorter now already. It feels like I haven't had a chance to get used to or appreciate them yet. It's been a real catastrophe curve of a year, so time passes without me noticing it.
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
I just saw something on facebook about Water Aid trying to encourage people to drink only water for the month of January. "Had one too many?" it asks, making broad assumptions of shared culture.

It makes me laugh, because I might be the only person I know who looks forward to Christmas finishing so I can get back to rich food and strong flavors and alcohol and indulgence and all the things I'm getting back just when everyone's supposed to want to give them up!
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
Got my first holiday card* this year, from [livejournal.com profile] starbrow. Inside there is a very nice message and a signature on the right side of the card. On the left side is just written
"IMMIGRANTS: WE GET THE JOB DONE!"


* I've seen a few "if you want a holiday card let me know" posts. I have been rubbish at answering them because I was hoping I could offer reciprocal cards this year...and it turns out that is in no way a possibility. Sad times. But if you are still willing to send a card to someone who can't send one to you, please add me to your list because I love getting cards and I really need more cheerful things right now. Will happily give out my address if you need it.
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
...is what I said last year.

If you're going to die, don't die on a holiday that isn't on a fixed date. It means in future years the date of your death and the holiday will be on different days, and it makes two very difficult days. Last year, the twenty-forth of November was almost a week distant from Thanksgiving (which is always on the fourth Thursday of November) and I thought that was worse. But this year they're on the same day, today obviously, and my mom finds that harder.

So I'm glad they're able to do something different from how they usually spend Thanksgiving. My dad's sister and her partner have moved this year, they're fixing up what sounds like a nice house out in the woods in northern Minnesota, it sounds lovely. But it's also lovely because it's something new, because they're not doing what they always did, they're not surrounded by several generations of my mom's family without having their own children there. My aunt and her partner have grown-up children who are scattered around and who I don't think will be around this weekend. And since it's a long enough drive they're not just going for the day like they would if they were going to my mom's sister's, they're staying for the whole long weekend, which will keep them away from the whole holiday palaver, the Black Friday sales and the traffic and everything.

But I miss them. I didn't get to talk to them last week before they went, which is a shame. Thanks to Skype I should be able to talk to them at some point while they're at my aunt's, but still. I worry that they think I'm somehow unaffected by this because I'm not there, and we don't have the holiday. But I am, and I'm affected differently precisely because of those things.
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Friend of mine (his tweets are locked; no one any of you know anyway I think) tweeted
"Whatever Happened to My Transylvania Twist?": Nostalgia and Modernity in Vampire Culture
(Followed by some explanation of the quote: "I've spent an uncommon amount of time thinking about the lyrics to "Monster Mash," and that line especially." His silly, very suited-to-the-medium-of-twitter idea resolves its tension when Dracula finally accepts the historical process of the dialectic and joins the band.)

But I read this first tweet and smiled and then suddenly realized how intense nostalgia would be in a long-lived or immortal species. And now I really want to read this treatise. And it doesn't exist.

This feeling of longing to read a book that doesn't exist is probably the kind of thing you'd get in a book about the nostalgia that vampires have.
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
This was the week of everybody around me having health problems or concerns, so that can fuck the fuck off as soon as it likes.

But today was fun. To cheer up my friend Katie, I met her in town.

We looked around the Magic, Witches & Devils in the Early Modern World exhibit at the John Rylands Library...something which I'm sorry to say I basically couldn't engage with at all, fascinating as I find the subject matter. Mostly it was books in glass cases, which I understand being, y'know, Early Modern need to be kept in safe conditions. But they were not just behind glass and in very dim light, they were also accompanied by very small labels, with some of the writing being light-blue-on-white, explaining what everything was, which were useless to and a bit of a struggle even for fully-sighted Katie. There was a "Large print guide" at the start of the exhibit, which delighted me because it looked to be full of interesting stuff....until I realized that I couldn't relate anything I was reading to what I could see -- there was no way to know which interesting book or object was being talked about in the descriptions I was reading. Katie thought it was the same text as the brochure she'd originally found out about this exhibit from. Add this to the light-blue-on-white or white-on-light-blue text in the very dim lighting conditions, and the fact that Katie had been led to expect a lot more than a little corridor with about six things to look at in it, and neither of us could quite say we were happy with it.

Shame as I do love the John Rylands. And now with my volunteering/museums/accessibility habits well-ingrained (as anyone who's been to any kind of museum or similar with me in the last six months can attest, I'm always going on about fonts and light and contrast and signposting now; Katie said I should make myself a job as a disability consultant), I've tweeted them to ask who I can talk to about accessibility because I have some feedback. And Katie and I found a couple of comfy chairs just waiting for us to sit in them and chat about work and health and relationships and everything (possibly annoying the Terribly Serious visitors to this corridor, but if so they were too polite and British to say anything) before we decided we should get some food.

We ended up going to Ed's, the chain trying to be 50s American diners that has recently made it to Manchester. What I knew only as "the place to go if I'm waiting for a train at Euston" Katie was familiar with as somewhere she and her friends would go after school, age twelve or thirteen, to have cheesy fries and peanut butter milkshakes and imagine they were doing exactly what all American teenagers do. So of course we had to get cheesy fries, and this time her peanut butter milkshake had banana in it too. I considered a root beer float but went for the other thing I always get at this place: chocolate malt. Being my father's child, I far prefer malts to shakes, and they're impossible to find otherwise (though Andrew once made me one with Ovaltine and it worked surprisingly okay). We also had "Atomic American Onion Rings," which is just onion rings with lots of implausible things to dip them in: "jalapeƱo jelly," barbeque sauce, cheese (and we're talking proper bright-yellow chemical-tasting cheese sauce here, same thing that was on the fries), guacamole and sour cream.

After we'd eaten all the onion rings, we still had half a bowl of cheesy fries left, but dumped the sour cream, guac and the other cheese sauce into the bowl as well, getting a bit giddy by this point from all the sugar and just how much we were enjoying each other's company. "Whatever the female equivalent of a bromance is," Katie said, "that's what we're doing." So I told her about Galentine's Day, which yes technically would have been yesterday but we were clearly celebrating exactly the things it means to celebrate: friendship with women you can be yourself around. Appropriately, perhaps, we'd already spent a bunch of time talking about some womanly things, like hormonal birth control, being socialized to blame yourself for everything about other people that disappoints you, emotional labor, how difficult it's been to overcome diet culture and how delighted we were that we could enjoy our meal of fat and carbs and everything that's supposed to be bad for us.
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
...the more we give honest answers to "How was Christmas?" the more people say "Why don't you just get your parents to come to the UK for Christmas instead?"

And it's starting to remind me of that time we had no internet or phone service for a month because of multilayered cock-ups between two or three different telcoms, and days and weeks into this whenever Andrew or I offered any kind of update or gripe about this, someone always said "You should tweet them about it, that really helped me/my friend/my uncle/my niece's monkey when they had a problem..." And I was just like, "We are so far past that now..."

Thanks for wanting to help but really. We know. We've thought of this, and if it was going to work it already would have.
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
Yesterday [personal profile] haggis told me that instead of having specific New Year's resolutions this year, she was just thinking "make the easy things hard, and make the hard things easy." I've been thinking about that a lot since then, and the more I do the more I like it. Make the easy things -- spodding on the internet, procrastinating, etc.etc. -- hard, make the hard things -- sorting out house, doing errands, etc. -- easy. I'm not doing a great job of it so far, but since it's a general approach to things and not a hard-and-fast resolution, I don't need to feel bad about every time I fail to make the hard things easier or give in to the things that are already too easy. Even when I'm "getting it wrong" (like when I added to the clothes all over my bedroom floor rather than tidying them up, which is what reminded me I wanted to write about this idea), I'm finding the idea calming and helpful, and not something I'm berating myself for not living up to immediately and perfectly, not something I see as a chore or a difficult task.

Today when I saw [twitter.com profile] SurvivorKatie, she said that instead of typical resolutions about going to the gym or losing weight, she determined this year was going to be about self-care. And it was great to see that in action during our time together, as she was starting to buy clothes for the size she is rather than waiting to have things until she's the size she wants to be.

I've never liked the idea of New Year's resolutions much -- they've never worked for me, being so arbitrary and showing up in the middle of winter when my instincts are just to curl up and wait for spring. But this year I'm loving seeing my friends' ambitions, knowing that they have the skills and wherewithal to do great things in their lives, and for all of us to support each other in that.

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